The Scout Association recognises its responsibility to deal fairly, constructively and consistently with expressions of concern or dissatisfaction from members and non-members (including parents) on behalf of themselves or their children.
In the first instance you should always encourage local, informal resolution of issues. Many complainants do not want to enter a formal complaints procedure. They simply want to have their questions answered, their concerns dealt with, or their opinion noted. Remember it is good to say ‘sorry’ and saying it can often diffuse a difficult situation.
What is a complaint?
A complaint is an expression of concern or dissatisfaction with any aspect of scouting. The procedure for resolving complaints seeks to:
- Resolve complaints as early as possible
- Support members
- Identify and act on opportunities for change and improvement.
- Complaints involving safeguarding matters must be dealt with in accordance with the set down procedures. Details can be found at www.scouts.org.uk/safeguarding
- The procedure below should not be used where individuals disagree with a national policy set by the Association. Elements of the complaints procedure It is the policy of The Scout Association to have an open and equitable procedure for dealing with concerns and complaints raised by members and non-members (including parents) that directly affect them or their children (who are youth members of Scouting).
The key elements of the procedure are that:
- All complaints will be dealt with consistently and reliably and in a fair and objective manner
- The approach to complaint handling will be positive and proactive
- Resolutions and outcomes will contribute to a process of continuous improvement
- All complaints will be handled by the most local volunteer line manager which in many circumstances will be the Group Scout Leader
- Complaints in relation to UKHQ or County staff will be handled by their line manager and/or Director and where appropriate the Chief Executive or senior staff member
- Complaints will only be accepted within three months of the date that the complainant reasonably knew sufficient facts.
- If a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the original complaint or the way in which it was handled, there is a right for one appeal only
- There is no procedure of “escalation” of a complaint. The complainant’s recourse is solely to a single appeal once the original complaint has been investigated and the outcome known
- The Scout Association does not generally investigate anonymous complaints
- The Scout Association does not accept complaints that are:
- raised on behalf of or regarding other people (except by parents/carers of children in scouting)
- broadly or substantively the same as a previous complaint raised.
- The Scout Association will not progress complaints that are found to be vexatious or malicious.
Please note: The offices of the Patron, President, and Chief Scout do not deal with complaints, disagreements or disputes. Any correspondence received on these matters by these offices will be referred to the most appropriate line manager.
Basic principles of the complaints procedure
Complaints should be dealt with locally
- Whenever possible, local people should first endeavour to resolve the situation informally and in discussion with the complainant
- Complaints received will be passed to the most appropriate and most local line manager for resolution (which for many situations will be the Group Scout Leader).
- Formal complaints must be made in writing. If there is a genuine reason that the complainant cannot make a formal written complaint, then it should be made orally and the person acknowledging it should, for the sake of clarity, summarise the complaint in writing to the complainant and then check it is an accurate record of their conversation.
- Complaints should be acknowledged in writing (which may be by email) within seven days of receiving the complaint.
- Complainants should be sent a copy of the Guide for Complainants sheet.
- It can be very helpful to ascertain early on in the procedure exactly what resolution the complainant is looking to achieve. It is not always obvious what would satisfy complainants – so ensure that you ask
- Complainants should be kept updated regularly on the progress of their complaint, ideally every four weeks.
- Line managers should not deal with complaints in which they are personally involved, or where they may be considered by either themselves or others to have insufficient independence. In these cases advice must be sought from the next level of scouting to ensure impartiality. The complaint does not have to be escalated; it could be referred to another line manager holding the same appointment
- Complaints are handled by volunteers therefore it should be accepted that they also have other demands on their time, however all complaints are taken seriously and handled with appropriate timing.
The procedure for dealing with complaints should be easily accessible and available
- All members involved in dealing with a complaint should be made fully aware of the procedure and their role within it.
- Details of the procedure will be made readily available to members and non-members
- Complainants should be advised of the procedure and informed how they can use it
- Appropriate adjustments may be made to the way in which the procedure is carried out to cater for any additional needs of those making a complaint.
Full support will be given to all those dealing with complaints
- Local arrangements should be made to provide advice and support to those dealing with complaints as required
- Members must be fully supported in completing any training needs that arise as an outcome of the resolution of a complaint
- Any learning points identified should be acted upon in a stated timescale
- Support to all those dealing with the complaint should be provided locally. Further support, guidance and advice on dealing with complaints can be sought from your line manager if required.
Guidance notes on the operation of the complaints procedure
- Local, informal resolution of a complaint should always be encouraged
- It is important to recognise the point at which a complaint reaches a stage at which it should be dealt with formally
- If a complaint is to be dealt with formally, the Complaints Resolution Procedure Framework given later in this document should be used
- The line manager of the person dealing with the complaint must avoid getting drawn into the detail of the initial handling of the complaint in case she/he is required to hear an appeal at a later stage.
- The line manager of the person dealing with the complaint should be kept briefed from the outset of dealing formally with a complaint.
- Communication is the key to successful complaints resolution. There should be adequate arrangements for effective communication between all parties, taking into account the various means of communication, for example meetings, post, email, telephone etc. All important communications should be put in writing, which may include email.
- There should not be any unreasonable or unexplained delay in dealing with a complaint.
- There may be times when urgent action is required. This may be for the safety or wellbeing of those involved. In such cases, action should be taken by, or on the written authority of, the responsible Commissioner, with their advice and support.
- Line managers should be aware of the potential for public interest in a complaint about Scouting and use the local procedure for such matters (which might include activating your local communications plan if appropriate).
- Line managers dealing with complaints may wish to nominate someone to investigate complaints on their behalf and report back to them with the facts for the line manager to consider.
- The complaints procedure should, as far as possible, be applied consistently in every case.
Responses to a complaint
- The response to a complaint will be based on the findings of an investigation. An investigation is primarily an information gathering exercise and should therefore:
- Gather all the facts
- Seek the views of those involved.
- The response and decision to the complaint must be:
- Based on the findings of the investigation
- Clear about the findings (‘this happened’) and action points or recommendations (‘this is what we will do’)
- In accordance with, and informed by the Association’s policies.
- All written responses should be given careful consideration before being sent.
- The response should answer, as far as reasonably possible, all the key issues raised by the complainant.
- It is often helpful to distinguish clearly between a wrong action or decision, and something that was badly handled but not wrong as such.
- In the spirit of continuous improvement, action plans to deal with training or other issues that may arise as a result of the resolution of a complaint should be drawn up, agreed and implemented within a specified timescale.
- Confidentiality as well as the customary courtesy and consideration must be maintained.
- It should be acknowledged that there will be occasions when a complaint is unfounded and as such should be refuted. The response rejecting such complaints should state the reasons for the rejection.
Remember it is good to say ‘sorry’ and saying it can often diffuse a difficult situation. An apology is not necessarily an acceptance that anyone has done anything wrong, but may simply acknowledge that things could have been better handled. It is often a good starting point for a response to an initial complaint.
- It is the policy of The Scout Association that a complainant who remains dissatisfied after a complaint has been investigated may have an appeal undertaken by the next level in Scouting’s structure.
- The Association’s policy is to allow one appeal only. Thereafter the matter will be considered closed. If asked for a further appeal, Commissioners should always politely make the policy clear and state that the matter is considered closed.
- Any appeal must be received within 28 days of the complainant being notified of the outcome of the original investigation.
- Any appeal should clearly state the basis on which it is being made.
- For the purposes of clarity, an appeal should be treated in exactly the same way as an original complaint. The same procedure should be followed and the same courtesies (especially in terms of communication) extended to all parties.
- An appeal will consider the procedure undertaken to handle the original complaint and the outcome of the original complaint.
Checklist for action
- Act promptly
- Exchange contact addresses (including email) and telephone numbers, with all those involved to ensure contact can easily be made as necessary
- Decide whether to nominate someone to investigate the complaint on your behalf
- Gather all the facts and find out what resolution the complainant would like
- Ensure the timescales are kept to as far as possible and advise the complainant if there will be a delay
- Ensure all correspondence is acknowledged promptly
- Provide help and support to all those involved in dealing with the complaint
- Ensure the response answers all the issues raised by the complainant as far as is reasonably possible
- Ensure action plans are followed up
- If there is a possibility of publicity, active your local communications plan (if appropriate)
- Keep hard copies of correspondence including emails, written notes of meetings and telephone conversations. Make sure they are dated. When writing notes and reports remember the contents may need to be made available to all those concerned.
- Keep records of any action both planned and taken
- Retain all paperwork and records relating to the complaint for one year after completion of the procedure.
- Guide for Complainants
- The Scout Association’s Complaint Procedure – Flow Chart: Running the Procedure
- The Scout Association’s Complaint Procedure – Flow Chart: The Appeal Procedure
- When adults disagree – guidelines for dealing with disagreements in Scouting
Serious Complaints to the Charity Regulatory Bodies
The Charity Commission is the regulatory body for charities in England and Wales and can be found on the web at www.charitycommission.gov.uk
The Scout complaint process should deal adequately with the vast majority of complaints, however everyone has the right to raise a serious issue, which may include whistleblowing, directly with the relevant regulatory body. The Charity Commission details the issues that it considers to be serious in its document CC47 Complaints about Charities.
We explain to complainants the role of the regulatory bodies in complaints and how to contact them. This is detailed in the guide to complainants “Resolving complaints: information for people considering making a complaint about Scouting” published on the website.
Note: The regulatory bodies only intervene in matters where there is serious risk of significant harm to, or abuse of, charities, their beneficiaries or assets. They tend not to get involved at all in internal charity disputes or complaints that are following a charity’s complaint process. Not all complaints will fall into this serious risk category and so the regulatory bodies will not always become involved in every problem or dispute.
Complaint about a Scout Group
|Complaint received that directly relates to matters in the Scout Group||The matter is dealt with by the Group Scout Leader or Acting Group Scout Leader who will either try and resolve the issue or appoint someone to look into the matter and report.
The complaint must be raised within three months and if the complaint becomes formal, the Group Scout Leader sends the Guide for Complainants sheet to the complainant.
The Group Scout Leader or nominee investigates the complaint.
The Group Scout Leader makes decision and informs complainant of decision and actions as appropriate.
The District Commissioner should be kept informed. All paperwork including outcomes and actions to be kept for one year.
|Whenever possible resolve at local level and as informally as possible.
Complainant should be kept informed of progress.
Ensure all actions are in accordance with the complaint procedure.
Seek help and support as required.
Learning points should be noted and actioned within a stated timescale.
|Complainant dissatisfied with the outcome of the first consideration of the complaint||Complainant must appeal within 28 days of receiving a first level response.
Group Scout Leader passes all records and paperwork to the District Commissioner.
The District Commissioner will either try and resolve the issue or appoint someone to look into the matter and report.
The District Commissioner makes decision and informs complainant of decision and actions as appropriate.
The County Commissioner should be kept informed.
All paperwork including outcomes and actions to be kept for one year.
|Complainant informed of outcome.
No further appeal is available.
Ensure all actions are in accordance with the complaint procedure.
Seek help and support as required.
Learning points should be noted and actioned within a stated timescale.
Writing Response Letters to Complaints and Appeals
v5: December 2015
Tim Kidd and Margaret Giles
This short note should be read in conjunction with the fact sheet that describes the complaints procedure for The Scout Association (FS140100). The fact sheet can be found on the Scout website in the Complaints section.
When writing the final complaint or appeal outcome response to the complainant, consider the following:
- Do not send a letter by email as a word document attachment as this might easily be edited. My preference is to send a physical letter or, in some circumstances, to send a PDF document that is a scan of the physical letter once it has been signed.
- Do not assume that anything you send to the complainant will remain confidential even if you mark it as such. Write it with the expectation that other people will see it.
- Remember that when you write a letter (or an email for that matter) you write it with your particular view of the situation and you use certain intonation in your voice to stress words and therefore change the meaning. The reader has a different view of the situation and won’t know the intonation that you intended. You therefore need to spend more time writing carefully to make the meaning absolutely clear. You might also consider getting someone else to read it (in confidence) to check for clarity, how it reads and of course spelling and grammar!
- If writing letters isn’t your thing, ask for help. See if other local managers have examples of letters (with any confidential information removed) that they have sent that you can use as templates.
- Particularly with a sensitive letter, write it and then put it to one side. Come back to it the next day and read it again and put yourself in the position of the person receiving the letter. You will probably make some changes!
- Ensure that you answer the key points of the complaint or appeal. It is a delicate line to tread, but do not write a huge, lengthy reply as this tends to introduce inaccuracies. Stick to the key issues and answer them clearly and succinctly. It is a good idea to ask the complainant early on in the process exactly what the key issues are and what outcome the complainant would ideally expect. These can then be addressed in the enquiry and the response.
- The style of the letter should be your own – not overly formal. But remember to be polite and firm so that there is no possible confusion about the outcome of the letter.
- Ensure that in the letter you take responsibility for the decision that you have made (e.g. “I have considered the matter carefully and my decision is that your complaint is upheld”). It is important to retain the responsibility for the decision even if someone else has carried out the investigation on your behalf.
- I suggest a structure of the letter along these lines:
- Start with being clear on the issue you are addressing and the timeline.
- Then say if you uphold the complaint/appeal or not. It is best to get this stated early in the letter so that the reader knows the outcome quickly rather than having to read the whole letter before finding out.
- Next cover the reasons for your decision and cover each of the key points in the complaint or the appeal.
- Finally clearly state the next steps available to the complainant including who the next point of contact is if appropriate. The two options (outcome of complaint and outcome of appeal) are given below.
- Keep the letter polite even if the complainant has not been polite to you.
The examples below are just that – examples – not the only way of writing these types of letters. They are provided to show an example of the structure and the type of things that should be covered in the letters. It is important to write your letters in your style so that they are genuine.
Please note that the subject of the complaint in the example is entirely fictitious and the exact content of the response will, of course, rely entirely on the specific complaint and the people involved. So please do not spend a lot of time analysing the reasons and so on, but look at the overall structure of the example letters.
I usually type the letter but write the salutation and sign by hand to ensure that the recipient sees that I have taken some time and care with the letter.
Example 1a: Response to a complaint, written by a Group Scout Leader following a complaint from a parent about the way in which her son was treated at a Scout camp.
Example 1b: Response to an appeal, written by a District Commissioner following a complaint from a parent about the way in which her son was treated at a Scout camp.
Example 2: Response to a complaint, written by a Group Scout Leader following a complaint from a parent about the way in which her son was treated at a Scout camp.
Resolving complaints: information for people considering making a complaint about Scouting
The Scout Association has a procedure in place to ensure that complaints are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. This document describes how to make a complaint and how your complaint will be dealt with.
It is the policy of The Scout Association to have a fair and open process for dealing with concerns and complaints raised by members and non-members that directly affect them or their children in Scouting.
How do I complain?
In the first instance, you should try an informal approach to resolve your complaint and to see what action will be taken. We hope that many complaints can be dealt with quickly and informally.
If the informal approach proves to be unsatisfactory, then you may wish to register a formal complaint. Formal complaints should be made in writing to one of the people detailed below. It is helpful when registering a formal complaint if you can provide us with concise details about the problem and your preferred outcome to rectify the issue.
What complaints are accepted?
We accept complaints about how you have been treated by Scouting or, if you are a parent or carer of a young person, how that young person has been treated by Scouting.
We have a few basic rules for the acceptance of complaints:
- Complaints must be raised within three months of you knowing the facts (we do not deal with complaints that are older).
- Complaints must be about how you or your children have been treated in Scouting (except for parents/carers of children in Scouting we do not accept complaints that are raised on behalf of or regarding other people).
- We do not accept complaints that are broadly or substantively the same as a previous complaint or that we believe to be vexatious or malicious.
- We do not generally investigate anonymous complaints.
Who deals with complaints about paid Association staff?
In the first instance, complaints regarding a member of paid Association staff should be addressed to the relevant line manager so they can carry out an investigation. If you are unsure of the name of the manager you need to contact, the Scout Information Centre can assist you – they are available on 0345 300 1818 or 0208 433 7100.
Who deals with complaints about volunteers?
If your complaint is about a volunteer, it will be dealt with by the local volunteer manager in Scouting or by someone asked by them to investigate the complaint. If your complaint is about the local volunteer manager then it will be dealt with by the next senior volunteer manager or by someone asked by them to investigate the complaint.
If your complaint is about your Beaver Scout Colony, Cub Scout Pack, Scout Troop or some other aspect of your local Scout Group then it will be dealt with by the Group Scout Leader.
If your complaint is about your Explorer Scout Unit then it will be dealt with by the District Explorer Scout Commissioner.
If your complaint is about some other aspect of Scouting in the District then it will be dealt with by the District Commissioner.
In all cases, if you are not sure then ask the Group Scout Leader or the District Commissioner or contact the Scout Information Centre (0345 300 1818 or 0208 433 7100) who will help you to find the right person.
How will my complaint be dealt with?
Your complaint will be dealt with fairly and objectively. We handle complaints in a positive and proactive manner and expect resolutions and outcomes to contribute to a process of continuous improvement.
Please bear in mind that adults in Scouting are volunteers and have other calls on their time. It may therefore take a little longer to sort out your complaint, however you will be kept informed of the progress of the complaint with an acknowledgement of a formal complaint within seven days and regular updates (typically at least every four weeks).
The investigator may need to speak to you and a number of other people to fully understand your complaint and the circumstances surrounding it.
The manager will make a decision about the complaint and will inform you whether your complaint is upheld or not and the actions that will be taken as a result.
What if I am not satisfied with the outcome of my complaint?
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint or the way in which it was handled, then you may appeal. You must appeal within 28 days of being given the outcome of your complaint.
Your appeal must be formally lodged with the next level of volunteer manager in Scouting. If you are not sure who this is, then the manager who dealt with your complaint will provide the details. In your appeal, you must clearly explain the basis on which you are making the appeal and your preferred outcome to resolve the issue.
Your appeal will consider the process undertaken to handle the original complaint and the outcome of the original complaint. You will be kept informed of the progress of your appeal with an acknowledgement of your appeal within seven days and regular updates (typically at least every four weeks).
Your appeal will be investigated by the next senior volunteer manager or by someone asked to do this on the next senior manager’s behalf. The investigator may need to speak to you and a number of other people to fully understand your appeal and the circumstances surrounding the investigation of your complaint.
The next senior manager will make a decision about the appeal and will inform you whether your appeal is upheld or not and the actions that will be taken as a result.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the appeal, there is no further escalation of the complaint and we will not consider further any action regarding the complaint or the appeal.
Whistleblowing and the Charity Regulatory Bodies
As a charity, Scouting is regulated by the relevant regulatory body in each country of the United Kingdom. In very serious matters, which may include whistleblowing, the regulatory body may consider acting on a complaint made to it directly. The regulatory body will not generally become involved with a dispute between members of the charity or where a concern is about policies followed or actions taken by the trustees within the law and the provisions of the charity's governing document (in Scouting this is “Policy, Organisation and Rules” found at www.scouts.org.uk/por )
The Scout complaint process should deal properly with your complaint, however you have the right to raise a serious issue directly with the Charity Commission at http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/ for England and Wales, with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland at http://www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/ or with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) at http://www.oscr.org.uk/